Gandhi never maintained, even once, that violence was something other than a force that had to be transformed or sublimated. He did not ask anyone to repress or ignore it. On the contrary. He would often say that if a person did not have it in them to do the work of sublimation and transformation of violence, then it was better for them to be violent (of all things) than passive, that is, to accept oppression, insult or injury due to feelings of inferiority or inability to respond adequately. Such statements were never in any way a ‘carte blanche’ for violent activity. Keep in mind: his movement was strictly nonviolent, and he was going for a big vision of what that meant–what he called, “nonviolence of the brave” versus “nonviolence of the weak or passive.” If there were violent actions on the part of the movement, he would call off the action, atone or offer penance, and not resume any actions until nonviolent discipline could be maintained. The point, I think, was that Gandhi never wanted nonviolence to be a form of repression or coercion on those who engaged in it with him; and in order to avoid that there has to be a choice offered them. Those in the movement always had the choice of violence, but they renounced it willingly in order to participate in the larger strategy, to consider themselves a part of what was taking place under Gandhiji’s leadership.
It’s unfortunate now that many of those who do homage to Gandhi reduce his vision to a question of morality; i.e.. Gandhi was nonviolent, so you have to be. This kind of simplification was the last thing he wanted; he always wanted us to think for ourselves. It’s a much better strategy, I think, to show people how Gandhi made his decisions and why he did, and let them decide on their own through experiments in their own lives. Offer them this very question “How can we sublimate and transform the force of violence into a constructive force for peace?” and watch, and listen to what takes place. People will begin to understand nonviolence in an entirely different, and more accurate light.
What are some of the strategies you have developed to harness and sublimate violence toward constructive and peaceful ends? Find one of these you can strengthen today.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org